Technological advances set the agenda for all countries seeking to gain a foothold in the struggle for control of the international order. China's speed in positioning itself as an ally of the Taliban as soon as it came to power in Afghanistan leaves them in a strong position to promote their "Belt and Road" project and continue the unstoppable expansion they have been carrying out for years. Although belatedly, the West reacted to this infrastructure battle with the "Build Back Better World", focusing on the climate, health and digital sectors. However, the United States did not want to stop there and has reached an agreement to strengthen its presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with the help of the United Kingdom and Australia.
Aukus is the name given to the triple alliance between the Americans, British and Australians to create a trilateral security force to confront Chinese interests. Although the leaders of the three countries have not wanted to refer to this agreement as a response to Beijing, the truth is that the East is very clear about the intentions of the three signatories. US President Joe Biden describes it as "a major effort to preserve the fabric of engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific".
"This was designed not only to strengthen our capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, but to link Europe, and particularly Britain, more closely to our strategic activities in the region as a whole," were the words used by a senior US official in reference to Aukus. This alliance aims to secure a region in which China has high aspirations because of the Belt and Road. In Beijing's plan, there is an important link between Kolkata in India and Mombasa in southeastern Kenya, which crosses the entire Indian Ocean and will now have an even greater American presence.
This is one of the reasons why the announcement of this trilateral security alliance has not endeared it to the Chinese and Russian governments. The country led by Vladimir Putin is closely monitoring the progress of its Eastern allies, and Moscow is not in favour of making things easy for the Americans, British and Australians. The Taliban takeover of Kabul, and the subsequent support of the Chinese and Russians - who have clear economic and geostrategic interests in the region - has been yet another chapter in the escalation of tension that continues to take place in all corners of the world, driven by the great powers. As a result, the Western response has been quick to exert pressure on another of China's key trafficking hubs.
One of the first steps Aukus will take is to boost the Royal Australian Navy. The first official statement on the agreement states that "as a first initiative under Aukus, we commit to (...) support Australia in the procurement of nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy". Regarding this drive, Biden said that "this is about investing in our greatest strength, our alliances, and upgrading them to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow". Australia will thus become the seventh country in the world to have this submarine propulsion technology.
The US president was asked at a press conference about the situation in China and the aspirations of Aukus to confront it. Without being entirely clear, as usual, he did send a message that his presence in the region, through this agreement, is necessary for the freedom of the Indo-Pacific: "We have to be able to address the region's current strategic environment and its evolution, because the future of each of our nations and, indeed, the world, depends on the Indo-Pacific being free and open".
The advent of this three-party agreement is intended to ensure the region's security while countering Chinese aspirations. However, Beijing and Moscow are not at all comfortable with this new situation, which could hinder their aspirations to control a large part of the map. The tendency with respect to recent moves is to counter their rivals' actions, which is why counter-attacking initiatives from China and Russia cannot be ruled out. The reality is that the race for the sceptre of international order has been going on for a long time, but what we have seen in the last few months could be an upswing that could over-revolutionise the engine that sustains the global equilibrium.